“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”
– Oscar Wilde, Irish author and playwright
If you were to ask me, say, 30 minutes after dinner, if I was hungry, I’d say, “Yeah, do you know what? I could eat.” That’s me now. I never used to be like that. I really fell in love with food in the months following my detox from alcohol and drug abuse, and, during my time in the Idaho rehab I found myself in, I learned how your simple, average supermarket can be like a out-patient’s hospital to someone in recovery like me. If you know what to look for, that is.
You don’t have to be a recovering alcoholic and drug addict to feel the true benefit of good nutrition. In fact, I’d try and avoid that path if I were you. However, I may well have never learned the important food facts that I have done if it weren’t for my 6-month stay with some of the most knowledgeable, empathetic and good-hearted people I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing.
My name’s Andy and I’m coming up to one whole decade of being clean and being sober. My road to recovery (which began feeling more like walking a tightrope suspended over the Niagara Falls) hasn’t been easy, but it’s one where I’ve stayed on track, each day and every day. There are a number of factors involved in this, such as great support, drug education (you’d be surprised what you can be addicted to these days), and practising yoga and mindfulness, but way up high on the list is this: good, simple, healthy nutrition.
The superfoods I wish to acknowledge (and even pay homage to) are described below, along with the particular benefits they bring to someone in addiction recovery. All of them regularly feature in the nutritional diet I have followed as I continue my recovery. Addicts never get cured of their disease – our addictions just become inactive through abstinence. These superfoods ensure I lead an active life, but in the right way.
On leaving the house, most people make sure they have their keys, their phone, their wallet or purse. Me? Yep, all of those (well, not a purse) and one other important thing – a banana. Full of healthy vitamins, bananas are a great source of natural energy – they’re so ready to be taken out with you, they’ve already got a jacket on.
Did you know that bananas also contain an amino acid called tryptophan, vital in the formation of serotonin (the happy neurotransmitter)? Serotonin is essential to those in addiction recovery, promoting both a healthy sleep pattern and a more relaxed feeling.
Poultry & Fish
Talking of essential amino acids, here’s another – tyrosine. Substance addiction causes the sufferer to be unable to process amino acids correctly, and thereby denying them the benefits they hold. Tyrosine is vital in the production of the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine, both of which provide a sense of well-being and mental clarity, so important to those in recovery.
One of the first lessons I received when I began my rehab nutrition classes was this: “Never buy a loaf of white bread again. Go whole grain all the way if you want to begin to repair the physical impact and damage that has resulted from your addiction.”
Whole grains are proven to increase heart strength and decrease the possibility of heart disease, plus they will improve the health of your digestive system, your lungs, and even your teeth. A high fiber diet is highly beneficial to a recovering addict whose addiction will have left their digestive system a mess.
I’d never eaten tofu before rehab. I think I hadn’t, anyway. Actually, I thought I would have never have been arrested and thrown in county jail, but I somehow managed that during my actively addicted years. Anyway, tofu – packed to the rafters with protein, easy to digest, and great for repairing liver damage. This is because the liver doesn’t need to produce bile to break down any fat with tofu, meaning it can heal itself at its own pace.
Leafy Green Vegetables
As I can certainly testify, withdrawal symptoms include the joys of vomiting and nausea. Eating plenty of leafy green vegetables, such as kale and spinach, really aid a delicate digestive system. Throw in the fact that they contain high amounts of the vitamins A, C, and E, and you are now able to properly absorb their nutritional content.
Nuts & Seeds
In addition to the odd trusted banana or two, I rarely leave the house without a self-prepared packet of nuts and seeds. A great energy boost always on hand as you need it through the day. They are also handy should you get any cravings for a past life, so to speak. Fortunately, as a long-term recovering addict, cravings are pretty much a thing of the past. However, I can’t afford to be footloose with my hard-earned sobriety.
Before rehab, if you had asked me what “free radical” meant, I’d hazard a guess it was a new alternative electro-punk band. Yes, what did I know? Don’t worry, I’m not going to drag you into a biology lesson – suffice to say, our bodies need these molecular structures to survive, but we are in danger of serious diseases if our bodies leave them unchecked. That’s why we have antioxidants, to keep that essential balance. Say hello to a blueberry.
Blueberries are jam-packed (excuse the pun) with antioxidants, helping to keep toxins and these free radicals in check by boosting the body’s natural immune system. And they certainly warrant the adjective “delicious” along with the other superfoods described above. Personally, I always throw blueberries into any smoothie or juice I’m making.
It’s not just recovering alcoholics and drug addicts that can benefit form these wonderful and, yes, delicious superfoods. Anyone looking to detox and cleanse their body in a completely natural and nutritious way will feel their benefits working within a few short days.
Obviously, there are many more superfoods out there, and it’s all about educating yourself as to what they are and what benefits they can bring. Which superfood would you have on your list of favourites and why? Let us know by popping a comment below. Thanks.
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